One of the things I know a lot of people struggling with, including myself in the past, is finding a good workflow. Proper workflow can truly boost your inspiration through the roof and make you finish some amazing music in a couple of hours, while a lack of it might give you a lot of trouble, killing your motivation and the will to create music in the first place. Here I am going to present 5 tips to optimize your workflow and have you focus on the important and fun sides of making music, rather than pulling out your hair over technical issues and other problems you might face while making music.
I know a lot of people who are starting completely from scratch in their DAW when making a new song. While working without a template might work for some people in certain styles (such as trailer music, EDM, etc), I would not recommend it for purely orchestral music. The reason is because it might require you to add and locate samples for up to 100 tracks every single time you begin a track. You’ll have to route them, add effects and tweak lots of things before you even record your first note. This can take several hours alone in a full orchestral track! If you have an amazing idea for a new theme, few things will kill your inspiration as quickly as spending one hour routing tracks to busses and arranging, labelling and color coding all your instruments properly. Therefore, for orchestral music, create a template with all the instruments and all the articulations you need, properly arranged, routed and color coded. This way you will be able to go straight to the recording part in minutes after a great idea hits your mind.
While you should have big templates available for your more complex projects (like orchestral music), I also encourage you to create some smaller templates for other purposes. For example one for only strings and piano. One without all the hybrid effects, big percussion, synths and sound effects. One with guitars, basses and other pop instruments. Create a template for each of the different styles you usually work with. Because if you get a great idea for a calm, meditative string and piano piece, you don’t want to wait 10 minutes for your huge 100+ track template to load, followed by a lot of track deleting before you can get to work. Also, many DAW’s already have templates ready for you to use when you start a new project. Save yourself some time and energy, have your templates ready, and go straight to the fun part.
This is overlooked extremely often, but saves me a lot of time in a lot of situations. What I usually do is to write a little table with each song section, and fill in which instruments roughly are playing the melody, harmony and countermelody in each part of the track. I also write a graph over each part, showing the dynamics of the track as it progresses. When I have a general overview over the arrangement and orchestration of my track, it’s easier and quicker to record, and to fill in more instruments as I go.
A lot of times it is really nice to just sit down in your studio and play around, seeing where it takes you. But when you have a clear main theme in mind and you want to be effective, this method can serve you well. That way you will be able to start recording right away when you get into your studio, without wondering which instruments to use where. It doesn’t have to be advanced, look at the chart above to get an idea regarding how simple you can make it.
Optimally, you should keep your studio computer for music recording only. This means, no computer games, no unimportant software and no internet browsing, all to optimize performance and avoid crashes. However, most people are using their computers in their home studio both for personal use and music production, so here are a few tips to avoid problems:
First of all, take backups. It’s no fun when stuff crashes and days or weeks of work get lost. Second, make sure to scan your computer regularly for malware and viruses. Third, make sure that you keep your system drive clean. Mine just got completely full, resulting in my computer freezing during recording every 5 minutes. I promise you, that’s not fun when you are on tight deadlines. It is extremely important that you keep your computer clean and fresh, as crashes and other computer problems tend to be one of the biggest pains you can encounter during recording sessions, which can completely ruin your workflow.
Before you head into the studio, take 10 minutes doing something completely else than music. Take a small walk, or go for a drive with your car. Then when you head into your studio, your mind will be fresh and ready to work again. Also, make sure to take 5-10 minutes off every hour or so to refresh your mind. It is incredible how much it helps to just walk outside your area for a few minutes, getting some fresh air and letting inspiration come back. Other things you can do is to do a quick workout, answer some emails, go for a quick coffee with a friend or play with your dog. Anything that takes your mind off the work for a few minutes and regenerates your energy.
I hope these tips will help you optimize your workflow, and help you be more effective when inspiration strikes!
Composer, producer, entrepreneur and digital nomad from Norway, and the co-founder of Evenant. Has a strong passion for traveling, exploring new cultures, learning new skills and creating new things.